BLT: The Loving Trio

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

2D274905923598-today-BLT-140523-01a.blocks_desktop_mediumTake the largest, most aggressive predators from three different continents and throw them together in a cramped Atlanta apartment and what do you get? Mayhem? Well, not exactly. What you get exactly is a love story and a lesson in tolerance, perseverance and making life work.  Thirteen years ago, Atlanta police burst into a drug dealer’s apartment and found, Baloo, a North American brown bear, Leo, an African lion, and Shere Khan, an Asian tiger. A status symbol in the drug culture, the then-cubs were sharing a miserable life of neglect and starvation. Freed from their captor, the trio were dispatched by authorities to the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia for R & R. But then something wonderful and telling happened. The group, who had struggled together, began to thrive together.

“They actually seek out each others affections,” animal husbandry manager Allison Hedgecoth said. “They nuzzle each other. They play together.” A bond formed by duress and cooperation to survive was stronger than any sense of  species identity. While the animals interact with the other residents of the preserve, their genuine affection for each other is out for all to see. It’s a brotherhood as real as any human institution.

The law continues to regard these creatures as mere property. Ignoring their very human-like sentiments and value to us, courts tell us that animals have only the value 2D274905923565-today-BLT-140523-05.blocks_desktop_mediumof a beast of burden or sideshow attraction. Stories like this make me wonder if they have value as teachers of humanity as well. Can mutual interest really suppress inborn aggression?  Are ways available for creatures of different colors and attitudes to work and live together not just in tolerance but in genuine harmony? Will humans ever reach the utopia found by this unlikely “family”? Are Homo sapiens really the dominant species in a moral sense?

Noah’s Ark founder, Jama Hedgecoth seems to have discovered the secret that eludes many, “I think people, they really want to be like that. They teach you how to get along. They’re definitely not the same color. They’re not the same species. They’re not even from the same country, and they love each other. They’re brothers, and they teach you how to love.”

According to their website, Noah’s Ark is “a non-profit Animal Sanctuary dedicated to bringing children and animals together with the purpose of providing unconditional love, unconditional service and a future full of hope.”  You can read about their good work here.

Future full of hope? Mission accomplished.

Source: Today

~Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor


63 thoughts on “BLT: The Loving Trio”

  1. Dr. Patricia McConnell PhD in animal behavior, disagrees w/ you. She has books out, a blog, and can be heard on NPR. She is very knowledgeable on this topic, you show your ignorance on this topic every time you speak. But, if past is prologue, you will bring in the backhoes and keep digging that hole.

  2. I repeat.

    Blast Seaworld to hell.

    It is cruelty of epic proportions to pen whales in an amusement park in order to make a buck.

    And I am unable to understand why it is necessary to have elephants, apes and other animals perform tricks at the San Diego Zoo.

    Positive connection? Bah. Ridiculous, selfish, cruel nonsense.

    But then I guess it’s just another character defect of mine. I was not taught some “tricks”.

    1. If you concede that we are going to imprison animals in zoos and other places like them; then I don’t object to teaching animals “tricks” as part of a play scenario to keep the animals entertained and interactive. To force that same animal to perform for money is morally reprehensible. Why is it that animals are forced to pay there own cost of care when we cage them for our own entertainment? Working to protect the future of a species is commendable. Making them perform for the privilege is not.

      On Sun, May 25, 2014 at 1:37 PM, JONATHAN TURLEY wrote:

      > feynman commented: “I repeat. Blast Seaworld to hell. It is cruelty of > epic proportions to pen whales in an amusement park in order to make a > buck. And I am unable to understand why it is necessary to have elephants, > apes and other animals perform tricks at the San ” >

    2. If you are married and male, I can almost guarentee that your wife has taught you some tricks. I am sure that your mom and dad taught you some tricks. Your teachers taught you some tricks. Your employer taught you some tricks. You just do not want to admit that they are tricks.

      Frankly I do not want to go face to face with lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I like seeing them in the zoo. Same with Shamu.

  3. They teach elephants, apes, and other animals “tricks” @ the San Diego Zoo. We all teach our pets “tricks.” By doing so, we are making a positive connection and providing animals w/ mental and physical stimulation. Patricia McConnell, the animal behaviorist on NPR speaks often and eloquently on this subject. “Blast SeaWorld to hell” would indicate someone should have been taught some “tricks,” it might help them relate to we humans.

  4. John asks: “Are these animals functioning normally and naturally? What will they evolve into?”

    No john, these animals are not behaving naturally, which is what makes the story so remarkable. It shows how different species are capable of compassion and empathy. Considering the duress the were under, it makes their reactions even more remarkable.

    And they will not evolve into anything. Species evolve, individuals survive.

  5. Schulte sez: “…the consensus seems to be if we put everybody together in a basement and starved them long enough, then took out and feed them and kept them together while other people came by an looked pointed and took pictures, the world would be a much better.”

    That seems to be the Repub/neocon plan for the world.

    Not sure there’s life lesson to be gleaned here? World famous Jane Goodall, whose animal studies have provided insights into human behavior, might disagree.

    BTW: Dr. Goodall has left off of chimp research and is now promoting greater awareness of the importance of plants. Something to think about as we head out to work in the garden…or go for our hikes.

  6. Paul S

    The orca is enduring a life sentence in a PEN. He has to JUMP in order to eat.

    Do you apologists for Seaworld love your dogs? Well here is what we are going to do with your dog…

    We are going to pen up your dog for the rest of his life. We’ll give him about 10 square feet. Forever. No dog parks. No splashing at the beach. No fetch. No naps on your bed. And if he wants to eat, he must roll over, jump through fiery hoops, and do somersaults.

    1. My dog does not like to splash at the beach and can’t fetch to save her life. And she dies if she gets on the bed.

  7. Blast Seaworld to hell.

    Whales and dolphins should not be kept in pens and made to perform circus tricks for our entertainment.

    How can anybody who loves this post then and the adorable lion, tiger, and bear, say it is okay to pen up a whale and teach it ‘tricks’. Damn! You’re teaching an animal who has a brain that is high functioning – YOU’RE TEACHING IT TRICKS. It is a f**king travesty.

    Don’t give me rescuing! If they want to rescue – fine. But it does NOT come with the price tag of capturing and penning up whales.

    Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. We are a despicable species.

    1. Bully Sir. Bully.

      Man’s vanity and arrogance is especially difficult for those whom we deem unworthy of rights.

      On Sun, May 25, 2014 at 11:36 AM, JONATHAN TURLEY wrote:

      > feynman commented: “Blast Seaworld to hell. Whales and dolphins should > not be kept in pens and made to perform circus tricks for our > entertainment. How can anybody who loves this post then and the adorable > lion, tiger, and bear, say it is okay to pen up a whale and t” >

  8. I did a back stage tour at SeaWorld and was very disappointed (this was in the early days of the park) to find out there were several Shamus. I was heart-broken.

  9. pete, I doubt many people who watched the doc, Blackfish, and formed their opinion on SeaWorld, have any idea that SeaWorld does these rescues out of their own pocket. I was simply providing the other side of the coin. Sue me.

  10. nick

    i don’t believe anyone has a problem with seaworlds rescuing distressed animals. it’s the capturing of live healthy young for entertainment in their parks that many find distasteful.

    if you go to the site then clicking on the whales name you can see internal seaworld documents on the individual whales.

    the fourth paragraph in the summary of Tilikum is “interesting”.

  11. Paul, I can walk to Sea World from our house on Mission Beach. I’ve never been. When folks w/ kids come to visit I always go w/ them to the zoo. But, when they do the Sea World, Disney Land and LEGOLAND junkets, I pass. I have no objection to them, they’re just quite expensive. There was a controversy this past week. PETA was trying to put up an ad @ Lindbergh Field, telling people not to attend SeaWorld. The airport had refused. The ACLU took it to court and the airport relented on Wednesday, putting the ad up. I am not a fan of PETA and their tactics, but the ACLU got it right on this one, IMO.

  12. SeaWorld has a rescue team. Sea creatures are always having health problems and washing up on the San Diego coast. A sea lion pup washed up as I was walking on the beach in April. It was scared and of course people were making it worse by getting to close to the pup, putting it in more stress. I, and regular beach walkers know the drill. I stayed near the pup, asking people to stay away. I waved to a lifeguard, he acknowledged the situation, and called the SeaWorld rescue team. They got to Mission Beach within 20 minutes, carefully got the pup into their truck kennel, and took it to be nursed to health and then released. I know it’s difficult for many to see both sides of an issue. They like to see the world in the stark, good v evil, Dem v Rep, etc. My profession taught me, and my personality abides, the undeniable fact of Ying and Yang.

    1. Nick – I like SeaWorld. I like what they have done with the rebuilding, but am not a big fan of the layout of the new shows

  13. Mark, When I’m watching the apes I do have those thoughts. I have spent enough time that I’ve gotten to know some of their personalities. There’s one older female ape that LOVES for women to open their purse and show her what’s in it. The vet @ the ape habitat told me that a few years ago. I thought she was busting my chops, but she wasn’t. I will tell women who walk up to the exhibit to open their purse, and the older ape will lumber up and look intently as women pull items from their purse. It is fascinating. The apes really study us. I love watching the koalas, but I don’t sense any profound thoughts, just “where’s the eucalyptus” and “time to nap.” The panda’s are the big draw but I find them pretty boring. Polar bears seem to have some depth and personality. The big cats seem to me just like house cats in personality and demeanor. It’s the kids that draw me there almost as much as the animals. Watching the pure glee.

    1. At the San Diego Zoo they used to have a male gorilla who would wave to the tour buses as they stopped. I was taking a behavior psychology class the first time I saw him and so went back to watch as the various touring cars went by. The drivers all used the same hand command to get the gorilla to wave to the bus, but he would only really wave for the female drivers. His attitude with the male drivers was that he would give a half-hearted wave.

  14. Nick:

    Do you ever consider during your days at the zoo that perhaps as we watch our fellow creatures encaged behind bars of iron or separated from us by concrete walls and arrogantly assured of our own innate superiority and dominion over them, that they are watching right back with no such pretense and only a desire to do us nothing but good?

    If that is so, who should rightly be the zookeeper?

    1. Truly. If we have a need to lock up dangerous creatures; what creature is more deserving than we?

      Shouldn’t that make us fearful that we might be measured with the same stick as we use to measure them?

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